When Faf Du Plessis was brilliantly run out by Ajinkya Rahane with 16 runs still to get at the Wanderers yesterday, I thought India had decisively inched ahead of South Africa. During the entire Test match, while South Africa kept coming back; India for the most part seemed ahead of South Africa. Having been in a position of advantage for a longer duration and having Faf Du Plessis run out with 16 still to get, I thought India would be more disappointed at not having won this Test.
At the end of the ODI series, however, had anyone offered a draw to India at Wanderers, I am sure India would have gladly accepted.
South Africa on the other hand after the ODI series, would be very disappointed with a draw at the Wanderers. However, Once India's bowlers, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara put India into a position of authority in this Test by the end of the 4th day; South Africa may be more relieved with escaping with a draw. Of course there must be a sense of disappointment at not having enough left to force a win. even while AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis put South Africa to striking distance of a win, at no point I felt South Africa could go for a win without taking risks.
Even after tea time when both Faf Du Plessis and AB De Villiers were batting so well, there was far too many runs and quite a bit of time still left for India to bowl South Africa out. South Africa could ill afford taking any risks. By the time the target had reached touching distance, they were just one wicket away from exposing Imran Tahir and a severely handicapped Morne Morkel to India's fast bowlers.
I can understand why South Africa did not go for the win and settled for a draw. Victory for them was never really possible without risking a loss.
Once South Africa started playing for the draw, what surprised me was that India too did not try to force a win. The last overs bowled at Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander didn't have any balls that looked like balls to take a wicket. The bouncers and short balls at Steyn were way too harmless and the intent was to go along with South Africa's desire to draw the game.
Perhaps, India reflected on how far they had come from the ODI series and assessed the draw positively given how heavily underrated they were to even put up a fight against South Africa.
Ultimately the first Test of the series ended up being engaging affair and through out the Test I was wondering what Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, and Virendra Sehwag must be thinking. For far too long we were sold the story that only batsmen of that caliber can compete on foreign pitches. In England, Australia and South Africa. Gambhir had us believe that somehow career averages count for runs in matches in progress.
That a young team on their maiden "away" Test arrested the 8 consecutive away losses was in it self uplifting. A win at the Wanderers would have been one of India's greatest away wins. Bigger than Adelaide 2003.
Why were we holding back these young players and why were we clinging on to players well past their prime who were delivering loss after loss?